Wednesday, May 28, 2014

On Break

I'm taking a brief break from blogging this week to get some actual work done on my work-in-progress, which for the past two months or so has mostly been an on-hold-work-in-progress. I'll be back for IWSG next week with some tips on public speaking, and will visit everyone next week as well :) If I don't come see you this week, I apologize in advance, and I promise I'll catch you in June!

In the meantime, I leave you with this recommendation:

Read Ann Pachett's collection of essays called This is the Story of a Happy Marriage (the link goes to her indie bookstore's website, where you can buy the book and have it shipped right to you). She's a marvelous writer, but that's not news; what caught me, and held me delightedly captive, was the insight into her life as a writer: her journey, her process, the way she built her career, the ways she supported herself before her fiction took off. I'm a very different person from a very different background, but so many elements of her story struck a chord in me. It was validating, inspiring, hilarious, and hopeful to see my struggles reflected in her words.

OK, I'm heading off to write now. Have a lovely week, and I'll see you next Wednesday!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

How I Found The Write Path

Blogger Carrie Butler had a genius idea to host a blogfest about authors' writing journeys, to give us all a chance to tell our younger selves all of the things we wished we'd known when we started writing towards publication. Everyone is going to write a letter to those younger selves, and dish out the advice, warnings, and encouragement we've now learned the hard way. Together with co-host PK Hrezo, Carrie will compile these blog posts into a free e-book, so that newer writers can learn these things the easier way. Thanks, Carrie and PK!
Dear Hopeful Writer,

There are so many things I want to tell you.

They range from the practical - don't get too attached to that expensive new handbag, it's just going to fall apart in the middle of a Boston subway station during rush hour, six months after you bought it (and yes, you'll survive the humiliation and the hordes of irritated onlookers, but you'll never find the sunglasses that fell out) - to the vital - when you're wondering if it's worth going out of your way to do something that will make your partner's life fuller or happier or easier: yes, the answer is always, always yes.

But I'm supposed to concentrate on writing, and I know that's the thing you dearly want to hear about, so I'll do my best to stay on topic.

You're a study in contradictions, now, so full of hope and fear. That's perfect, believe it or not, because you're going to need the good and the hard to survive. Here's what I've learned, six years down the line (in outline form, of course):

  1. You are simultaneously better than you fear you are, and not nearly as good as you hope to be. So believe in yourself, and while you're at it, go to those writing classes you've been wondering about. Go to more than you can afford, and more than you think you need. Even if the class isn't good (which is rare), you’ll always take away at least one lesson, one gem of wisdom or craft that will inspire and aid you, and often you’ll take away many more.
  2. Hold on to that belief in yourself, that precious conviction that you'll succeed. You're going to need it when you:
  3. Learn as much about the industry as possible. The information will be depressing at best and terrifying at worst, but don't shy away from it; you need to know it. Yes, all of it: the gloom and doom, the predictions about the end of art and culture, the harsh truths of how much (or little) authors make.
  4. Now that you've faced reality, remember that belief in yourself. Pick it up off of the ground where it fell in despair, dust it off, and hold it close. You'll find that it's stronger now, and one day, it will be able to pick you up when you fall, and carry you. 
  5. And you'll need that, because the rejections will roll in, great bruising waves of them, and you're going to have to figure out how to get back up when they bowl you over, and keep writing, anyway.
  6. Keep writing. Even when it's impossible, even when it's killing you, it will always be your greatest joy and best hope. 
  7. Be patient. No, I really mean this. Be patient. You've learned from your research that the publishing industry moves at a snail's pace – and that’s on good days - so there's nothing to be gained, and much to be lost, from rushing.
  8. No, your manuscript isn't finished yet, no matter how anxious you are to start querying. See #7 above.
  9. Listen to your gut. Your CPs and beta readers will be invaluable, and will help you more than you can imagine, but when they're done and you're sitting with a "finished" draft, only you will know if it's truly finished. 
  10. No, your manuscript isn't finished yet, no matter how encouraging your readers are. See #s 7 and 8 above.
  11. Be kind to yourself. You're going to make many mistakes as you learn, and being angry with yourself for making them is going to accomplish exactly nothing. So stop it. Cultivate compassion for yourself instead.
  12. Take all of that extra energy you have now that you're not wasting it on criticizing yourself, and use it to be vigilant and unrelenting about protecting your writing time. No one - not even the people you love the most, and often especially not them - is going to do it for you.
  13. Yes, your manuscript wasn't finished when you started sending it out. That's OK. See #11 above, then learn from it and move on.
  14. Other writers are not competition; they're community. They're honest and generous and talented, and building relationships with them will only help you. You'll have people to talk to who understand you, and even without the other benefits - skilled critiques, enthusiastic support, hard-won wisdom and advice - that alone is worth its weight in gold. 

I'm running over my word limit (yes, you'll continue to overwrite; just resign yourself to a lifetime of editing), so I'll leave you with my unending support, and a true belief that you’ll succeed. I believe in you, and that's saying something.

- Liz Blocker

I give permission for my entry to be included in the e-book compilation without royalties and/or separate compensation.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Writing Process and...COME BACK!

No, that's not a totally desperate plea to you all, visitors; it's an announcement that Melissa Maygrove's debut novel, Come Back, is now available!! I'll have more on that shortly, but first -

The lovely and talented Kristin Smith tagged me in a writing process meme last week - yes, last week; I know that's like a decade in internet time, but I've been very busy recovering - so I'm going to respond with my own process today. Better late than never, right?

And no, I haven't forgotten that I promised to write a post about public speaking. I will, but thanks to so much busyness in the blogosphere, it's going to have to wait til June's IWSG post. It'll be there, I promise!

Now, on to my writing process:

What am I working on now?

Well, gee, I dunno if I should answer this. I mean, I never, ever, ever talk about it, and I'm just not sure I'm ready to start. I've heard that some people post about their WIPs every single day in one month, but I just don't think I can't do that (did I get to 26 links yet? Hmm...) Well, if I must...

As you all know, probably long past the point of curiosity, I'm currently researching, brainstorming, and plotting out a novel about two souls. The book will follow them through six different lifetimes, all the way from Ancient Greece to the London of the future, in one seriously long and epic love story. You can read the little blurb I created for it here. I'm also querying my first novel, Cloudland, and Other Stories.

How does my book differ from other within its genre?

Hmm. Good question. I've been having trouble fitting this one (and Cloudland) into one specific genre, because I tend to write literary fiction plus something else. Cloudland is literary fiction with elements of fantasy, and my current WIP is literary fiction plus some romance plus magical realism. I hope that works in my favor instead of against me, but honestly, even if it doesn't, it's what I love to read, so of course it's how I write, too.

Why do I write what I do?

Yikes, that is not an easy question. I suppose I write about topics that challenge me, inspire me, trouble me, hurt me, and drive me crazy. I wrote Cloudland because I wanted to talk about grief; about how it can tear you apart if you don't face it; about how universal and yet specific it can be; about the possibility of redemption and growth and peace inside all of that unbearable pain. I'm writing my current WIP because I wanted to dive into that terrifying, thrilling, messy place where love, faith, and fear intersect; because I wanted to raise big questions about souls, and how we love, and who we love; because I wanted to explore all of the ways we can sabotage ourselves and our own happiness, and how the world can sabotage us, and yet we can still hope for - and perhaps even get - a second, a third, a five-thousandth chance at joy.

I couldn't tell you why I write literary fiction; it's just the way it comes out. I have my own frustrations about that genre, anyway, because the name is so inherently snobby. But that's apparently what I write, so there it is. I write magical realism because I desperately needed magic to be real when I was young, and I never got over that acute wish; and because now, as an adult, I do find magic in the strangest places, and that's one of my favorite things about being alive.

How does my writing process work?

Well, I've written this to death on this blog, too; may I point you to my post about plotting as a good starting point? In a nutshell, here it is: I get an idea. I worry the idea is stupid. I brainstorm and develop and research that idea, anyway, in the hopes that it's not. In the process, I get excited about it, and brainstorm and develop and research some more. I write extensive, deeply psychological, insanely long character analyses. I outline and re-outline and outline some more (I will never be mistaken for a panster). In between, I worry and fret and write brainstorming snippets that help me develop character and scene, and worry and fret some more. Once I have a finished outline, I write and write and write, then read and read and read, and edit and edit and edit, and wash, rinse, and repeat.

So...what's YOUR writing process like? Tell me! I'm also going to tag Mason Matchak and Anna Soliveres to continue on with this writing process tour.

And now, on to Come Back, at long last!! Happy Release, Melissa! Seriously, I've been so excited to post about this. Melissa is a great blogger, writer, and friend, and I'm so happy for her...not mention psyched to read this book! It's NA Historical Romance, for those who are wondering. Melissa is also running a giveaway on her blog this week, so after you finish reading this, go over there and enter!

Come Back, by Melissa Maygrove
Sometimes a single choice alters the course of a person's life forever.

Left behind by everyone she loves...

Rebecca Garvey had the promise of a California future dreams are made of, until the wagon train her family was traveling with left her behind. Now she’s slowly dying in the wilderness, abandoned and stripped of her self-worth. Once the shock of her desertion turns to embittered despair, she doesn’t want to be found. Then a handsome stranger challenges her convictions and changes her mind.

Headed for Texas, chased by the demons of his past...

Seth Emerson knows exactly what he wants. Working to save for a cattle ranch of his own keeps him busy and keeps his pain buried. Rescuing a stubborn woman from the hills of New Mexico Territory isn't part of his plan—but she’s exactly what he needs.

Making greater sacrifices than either of them could foresee...

Seth and Rebecca set off on a risky journey and a quest for truth, each healing the other’s love-starved soul along the way. Will they give in to their growing attraction?  Or will they honor their commitments when Seth returns Rebecca to civilization... and her betrothed?

Where to buy:

About Melissa:

Native Texan Melissa Maygrove is a wife, mother, nurse, freelance editor, and romance writer. When she's not busy caring for her tiny nursery patients or shuttling teenagers back and forth to after-school activities, she's hunched over her laptop, complicating the lives of her imaginary friends and playing matchmaker. Melissa loves books with unpretentious characters and unforgettable romance, and she strives to create those same kinds of stories for her readers.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Insecure Writers: Choosing Your Life, and Cover Reveal for 25 Roses!

NOTE: It's the first Wednesday of the month, so it's time for The Insecure Writers! For those who don't remember, it's an online group created by Alex J. Cavanaugh for writers. You, too, can join us anytime!

Hey, look - I MADE IT! The A to Z Challenge is over, and I'm alive!! I know that sounds a bit melodramatic, but frankly, I had my doubts. When we hit the letter 'N', and I realized we had only just made it past the halfway point, I did fear for my sanity. That was a dark day...

BUT, I made it - we made it! It was a fantastic experience, and truthfully, the only reason I wouldn't do it again is that my writing time did suffer.

And that, of course, is what my ISWG post is about today. I've learned, very much the hard way, that I constantly have to fight to protect that precious writing time. Yes, there are demands from family and friends and work, but in all honesty, there's one person who is constantly trying to take that time away, who drives me crazy with too many demands, and who seems to think I'm a superhero who can manage everything with grace and perfection and good cheer and never ever need to sleep:


Dastardly, aren't I? Indeed, I'm my own worst enemy, and boy am I clever at it. I'm constantly finding new, ingenious ways to take away from the time I value the most. I might even say that I'm a bit of an evil genius about it.

Why, you ask, do I do this to myself, when I need and value my writing time so highly?

Good question. REALLY good question, actually. And I'm trying to stop. Really, truly, all joking aside for a moment, trying to stop. I am, as I told my friend the New Messiah a couple of weeks ago, constantly reminding myself that I have to choose my life.

It's that simple: choosing my life, rather than letting it choose me. Choosing to pursue writing, and protecting that time fiercely, tirelessly; choosing my passion and my ambition and my love, and not letting all of life's small details and demands and obligations drown me. I believe it's a constant, conscious act. It's hard sometimes, but it's well worth it.

So, that's what I want to offer today, IWSG-ers: choose your life. Choose your writing. Protect it, make time for it, believe in its value. I can't wait to see what you create.

And now, without further ado...

May I insist that you all go over to Stephanie Faris's blog, and check out her gorgeous new COVER? Here's a little info on the book, 25 Roses, just to get you revved up for your visit:
Valentine's Day means one thing at Stanton Middle School: students will send each other chocolate roses. Each year, Mia Hartley watches while the same group of students gets roses and everyone else is left out. This year, she decides things will be different. As the student assigned to write names on the cards, Mia purchases 25 roses and writes her own cards, designating them to 25 people she's personally chosen. But she soon learns that playing matchmaker is much more complicated than she thought it would be.

Seriously, go check it out!!